Jamaica Customs reports 24% dip in revenues in 2020

REVENUES collected by the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) for 2020 dipped during the last three quarters of the year by 24 per cent.

According to figures provided by the Government in the 2021/22 Fiscal Policy Paper (FPP), for the period between April and December 2020, Customs revenues fell by $43.6 billion to $135.5 billion.

The FPP said that the programme, which collects border revenue for the Government, has been challenged by the downturn in importation, stemming from the disruption of domestic and international activities as a result of the fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

However, it insisted that, “despite the dynamics of the externalities”, the agency managed to stabilise its efforts with respect to its core mandate of revenue collection, which was above the period’s adjusted target of four per cent.

In terms of border protection, the JCA recorded a 42 per cent increase in seizures, between April and December 2020, over April to December 2019. Cash detained or seized amounted to US$622,452.

For the same period, 89,388 commercial declarations were submitted for processing, of which 70,290, or approximately 79 per cent, were documentarily processed within 20 hours of submission.

Passenger arrivals plunged across the two main international airports – Donald Sangster International Airport and Norman Manley International Airport – for the period, as well. This was due to the closure of the country’s borders to incoming travellers between March 2020 and July 15, 2020, and the other restrictive measures imposed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Passenger arrivals totalled 373,670, representing a significant decrease of 1,288,601 or approximately 78 per cent, compared to the previous year’s total of 1,662,271.

Regarding trade facilitation, the JCA said it has been taking note of the global pandemic and the necessary adjustments required to facilitate the continuation of business, and recognises the need to ramp up its effort towards creating greater levels of trade facilitation aimed at moving cargo and people through the ports faster.

In light of this, the agency introduced several initiatives, including the:

• Implementation of full automation where semi-automated processing was being practised. This included expansion of the express clearance process, which, essentially, removed the involvement of the customs officer from the preparation of the simplified declaration, resulting in faster throughput and facilitating greater levels of social distancing;

• Introduction of online application for refunds processing;

• Rolling out of e-services to reduce or eliminate walk-in clients in some areas such as Customs House, the Returning Residents Unit and the Valuation Verification Unit. Customers are now required to make appointments and conduct interviews online, and;

• The Jamaica Single Window for Trade (JSWIFT) for Trade Board Limited (TBL), which went live on June 22, requiring mandatory use of the services for the export regime. This included online applications for a licence as an approved exporter of scrap metal, payment, and approval by TBL. Electronic applications are now being accepted for export permits, which are reviewed and approved by both the customs site inspection officer and the Trade Board assessor, in a sequential workflow involving both agencies.

In terms of legislative amendments, the Bill introducing The Customs Act 2020 was tabled on December 15, 2020 in Parliament and is now before the joint select committee for review. This represented a retabling, as The Customs Act 2019 Bill had been tabled prior to the 2020 general election.

Proposals relating to the legislation for JSWIFT have been reviewed to ensure alignment with the Act and the proposed new regulations are under consideration.